Exams and the Academic Honor Code

At Bowdoin, we operate with an Academic Honor Code and Social Code that students overwhelmingly respect and adhere to. A number of students cite its existence as an important consideration in their decision to attend the College.

Nevertheless, instances of cheating do occur. Over the years, faculty members and members of the Judicial Board, which adjudicates cases of academic dishonesty, have suggested that faculty employ proactive best practices, which can support our students in making good choices and lessen the likelihood of cheating.

  • Remind your students of Bowdoin's Academic Honor Code either verbally or by soliciting a signature on a statement on the exam confirming adherence to the Code. [Some faculty include language along the lines of the following on their exam, "By signing this examination, I acknowledge my responsibility and commitment to the Academic Honor Code."]
  • Continue to offer accommodations to students who have requested them.
  • Consider offering students a choice among several types of assignments to demonstrate their learning.
  • If you allow collaborative work at certain times and forbid it at other times in your course, be clear about this distinction and explain the difference between collaboration and collusion.
  • If you use plagiarism-detection tools, inform your students - both on your syllabus and in class - that you will do so and how such tools work.
  • Decide in advance which resources students will and will not be permitted to use and clearly communicate this information to students well in advance.
  • If giving take-home exams, specify which sources students can consult (e.g., assigned readings and notes but not the internet) and explain how to cite these sources.
  • If giving take-home exams, consider offering a generous window of time during which students can decide when to start a timed exam.  [Although take-home exams create more opportunities for cheating, and the Judicial Board has addressed cases centered on take-home exams, a flexible start time can mitigate the stress that can lead students to make poor choices.]
  • If holding in-person exams, and books, notes, phones, and laptops or iPads are not to be used, require that students stow these items out of sight. [Some faculty provide a container in which students deposit these items as they enter the room or simply ask students to leave these items in front of the classroom.]
  • If you use “blue books,” distribute your own at the outset of the exam.
  • Spread students throughout the room as broadly as possible. [In some Judicial Board cases, unnecessary proximity made it easy for one student to copy the work of another.]
  • Remain present during your exam to assist students in maintaining academic integrity, to answer questions, and to address any concerns should they arise. [Students routinely express gratitude for instructors who rigorously proctor their exams, as this allows them to focus on their exam and not the behavior of their peers.]
  • Remind students to use the bathroom before they are given their exam. [Students have used bathroom breaks to consult notes, textbooks, phones, etc.]
  • Consider providing calculators. [Formulas and text have been found programmed onto calculators.]
  • If scrap paper will be allowed, provide it yourself to students. Collect and keep the scrap paper after asking students to place their names on their scrap paper. [Providing scrap paper reduces the likelihood that students will bring something into the exam they shouldn't, and scrap paper can serve as important information in Judicial Board cases and possibly in one's decision to bring a situation to the Judicial Board. Some faculty have regretted not providing their own scrap paper or collecting it.]